Supporting the Outlook Client for Hosted Microsoft CRM 4.0?

This is just a quick post that is more of a question than a post.  I’ve talked to other CRM ISVs and CRM Hosters and there are differing opinions on how or whether to support the Outlook client.  The Outlook interface is a big selling point and makes the CRM experience much better in my opinion.  However, if you have ever been involved in technical support for Microsoft CRM, you know that the Outlook client is far and away the source of the most support issues.

Today, we applied Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 Update Rollup 2 on our own CRM server.  I use the “Laptop Client” which has synchronization.  Just for grins, I tried to use the Outlook client after we updated the server but before I applied the update to the client.  As suspected, I got errors trying to go back online.

It is standard practice to have all clients go online prior to applying an Update Rollup.  That’s probably pretty workable at a small or medium business.  A few salespeople will forget but that’s ok since you can go around the office and fix up a few problems.  Deploying the update to all of your users is another task you’ll have to tackle.  In an on-premise implementation you can use group policy or some other method to push out the update.  But what about ISVs and Hosters?

If you are a hoster and you support the use of the Outlook client you have to deal with pushing out an update to all of your customers every two months when a new Update Rollup is released.  So, if you host CRM 4.0, here are my questions:

Do you support the Desktop Client, the Laptop Client, or both?

What do you use to push updates to your clients?

How do you handle the timing up of pushing out updates (update all servers then immediately push to clients)?

How do you handle notifying customers of an update?

How difficult has it been to support the Outlook client?

-Dan

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5 Responses

  1. Hi Dan, we support hosted CRM with the Outlook client for many hundreds of users in small and medium businesses, so the challenges you’ve raised have hit a nerve!

    After internal testing, we tend to deploy CRM updates during the weekend and require Outlook CRM client users to install the client components on Monday morning. We rely on users to download the updates from our website.

    A lot of support resources are concentrated on supporting the Outlook client. Not just because it’s (how can I say this politely) “so much fun to support”, but because of the wide variety of hardware, operating systems, Office versions, security suites, IE settings and other configurations that we see in every small business we support.

    But we see this as all part of the game when hosting MS CRM. We have to support all those possible configurations in order to earn our keep. Those customers that want our top tier support are charged for it, and those that don’t want to pay for it are redirected to online resources.

    The only impossible situation was a CRM3.0 “Laptop Client” user who insisted on syncing 15,000 contacts onto his lightweight laptop…

    Neil

  2. It’s great to hear from someone who has been there and done that. It’s also great to hear about a company that “goes the extra mile” to support its customers. That’s what CRM is all about, isn’t it.

    If you are in the UK, or anywhere else for that matter, and you are looking for a hosted CRM solution, check out Increase CRM at http://www.increasecrm.co.uk.

    -Dan

  3. Integrating Outlook support is worth the extra effort, if nothing else, just to be able to offer that option to our clients. Updates are handled through the plug-in.

  4. Hi Ben,

    What do you mean by the Plug-in? We currently create a step by step instruction file for users to apply the rollups. We are seeking for a better way to push it down to users using Outlook Client.

    – Victoria

  5. For those of you who host CRM how do you have the clients connect to the CRM server that is hosted? Do you use VPN? I have had so many issues with CRM 4.0 client and connectivity issues and I am wondering if it has anything to do with going over a WAN via VPN. Any thoughts?

    Nick

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